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2014 in review

2014-goalsAfter getting a whiteboard for Christmas 2013, I decided to get into the habit of writing down my goals for the coming calendar year. This post is just to reflect on how that went, but also review some of the other achievements I’ve had in 2014.

It’s important to recognise the wins in your career and life, as it’s so easy for them to get hidden amongst the drama of the daily grind. I’d urge you to do the same, whether it’s on a blog or on a piece of paper.

2014 goals

  • Design Patterns
    Read JavaScript Patterns. Finished Head First Design Patterns in 2013, but the problem is always getting it to stick. Not entirely convinced I can tick this one off, so I’ll drag it across to 2015.
  • Improve JS
    Read some really great books to consolidate my JS knowledge. Also had fun with client side date/times on the hybrid app for Sky – came away with some great experience from that.
  • Improve AngularJS
    Developed and released the most high profile product I’ve ever worked on, using AngularJS. It came with its challenges, and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot in the process. Not forgetting working alongside some really talented people. Attended ng-europe in Paris and met some great people (including Googlers). Also developed 2 AngularJS apps outside of full time employment.
  • Improve CI/perf
    Not sure why I banded these together, but definitely improved knowledge in both these areas. Had to mince around with Jenkins a fair bit so I learnt something there. Performance wise – read the odd book and attended a workshop by a smart chap from the Guardian (Patrick Hamann).
  • Finish High Performance Browser Networking
    Wow, what a great book. The amount of research that must have gone into this is astounding. Every dev should read this. Ilya Grigorik is a fountain of knowledge.
  • Redevelop freelance portfolio/website
    Feeling very tired and out of date. Replaced with a single page using bootstrap and a succinct description of what I do instead. Much better for maintenance and I feel a lot less guilty for it.
  • Sell/increase revenue from SalaryBot
    Turned SalaryBot into a SaaS, and got my first lot of paying subscribers. Also lead to another couple of SaaS products being created for the finance industry. Forged some great relationships with business owners and individuals along the way. Looking to expand this and create other revenue channels in 2015.
  • Responsive SalaryBot
    Didn’t get round to making SalaryBot responsive, although as paying customers are now the focus, I did work out how to make iframes responsive (dynamic heights being the problem). Hopefully 2015 it will happen.
  • Earn £X outside of work
    Ambitious, but was too vague. Instead next year I’m going to concentrate on hitting targets for acquiring customers for my products.
  • Wearable tech exposure
    Bought a Pebble smartwatch and ended up prototyping a Karate app. It was very refreshing jumping into something with both feet and not having a clue what you’re doing. Unfamiliar APIs, programming language, hardware. Really enjoyable to create a product that was so entertaining (although clearly a novelty), definitely caused some humour in the office. Probably need to blog on it.
  • Go to a tech conference
    I managed to go to two in the end (PHP North East and ng-europe), of which I’m very grateful to my employer, Sky. Having never been to one before, it was an eye opener. Need to go to more of these.
  • Go to more than 6 meetups/tech events
    Wanted to beat the previous year’s attendance count – smashed it. Intend to keep this effort up to help stay in touch with the community and my finger on the pulse.
  • Contribute to a GitHub project
    Better late than never. Made my first ever open source contribution, to a project I was already using so it made sense. Intend to do more of this in 2015.
  • Improve PHP
    Got to grips with Composer and PHPUnit. Also went to a conference. Now I’m back on a PHP project full time I’ll probably want to revisit this goal.
  • Learn 3 languages
    Well intended but didn’t happen. Had to play around with C for the smartwatch, but nothing really other than that. Difficult to know what to invest in, as so many are hot, but how many will be relevant in time to come?
  • Play tennis
    After a breaking a few bones (amongst other injuries) in my wrist, I made my return to tennis after months of physio. I’m glad to report I’m as rubbish as I’ve ever been! 🙂
  • Cook a curry
    The other half is a great cook, so I wanted to cook a decent meal from scratch for her (I never cook). I managed to do it under supervision. One step at a time!

Personal achievements

Outside of my defined goals, it’s been a great year:

  • Got engaged!
  • Completed the insanity workout.
  • Ticked off a couple of countries on places to visit (Mexico and Tunisia).
  • Got my wrist pretty much back to normal after a bad accident. Humbling experience.
  • Truly got into the SaaS game, creating 3 core products for subscription.. with customers!
  • Completed my first year at Sky without getting myself fired.
  • Got asked to be best man at my pal’s wedding.
  • Got to interview people for work. I’m not necessarily any good at it, but it was an interesting experience being on the other side of the table.
  • Developed and relaunched the number 1 free app for sports on iOS and number 3 on Android. Taking tally to 5 apps worked on in top 100 apps in sports and finance categories for iOS/Android.
  • Read a record number of books. A few years ago I didn’t read books, now I’m reading almost daily.

Books read

I stepped up my dev game in 2014 and read a great deal of material. One thing that’s come out of it is the importance to not let your job take over your life. After reading “Surely you’re joking Mr Feynman!”, I’ve been inspired to do and read things that aren’t necessarily just tech.

  • High Performance Browser Networking (started in 2013 but finished early 2014)
  • JavaScript: The Good Parts
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People
  • The Mom Test
  • Clean Code
  • The Pragmatic Programmer
  • JavaScript Patterns
  • The Mythical Man-Month
  • Surely you’re joking Mr Feynman!
  • AngularJS
  • Code Complete 2 (nearly half way through, long read)
  • Steve Jobs (half way through audio book)

Goals for 2015

They’re written up and ready to go. You’ll see them at the end of 2015 when I’ve had a good stab at them.

What did you achieve in 2014? Have you thought about what you want to do in 2015? Invest in yourself and get thinking!

Chris Bell

Chris Bell is a software engineer based in Leeds, UK. Enjoy his personal accounts and insights into the weird and wacky world of software development.

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